Social Justice and the Climate Crisis
Western culture is rooted in the ideals of the scientific method. The idea that we exist in an objective reality and might be able to obtain its secrets through replicable experiments for informed hypotheses has given the West a sense of superiority in the name of progress. Yet despite this foundation in tangible matters and practicality, the men who are championed with building the bolstering reputation of modern science - men like Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Frances Bacon, Paracelsus, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, etc. - pay tribute to the immense influence of spiritual or esoteric materials such as the Emerald Tablets of Thoth and the Corpus Hermeticum, a spiritual philosophy on the nature of “god” and “being,” which stretches all the way back to the dynastic period of Egypt. These ancient spiritual texts provided foundations on which to approach their understanding of the universe.
(Mercurius Trismegistus by Pierre Mussard, 1675)
Since the birth of science, countless spiritual philosophies and approaches have influenced the scientific method as a disciplinary field. Mathematical philosophy, quantum physics, magnetics, and chemistry are confirming much of what mystics have been saying for thousands of years! In fact, throughout ancient and medieval periods of history, the study of fields such as magnetism and chemistry fell under the practice of magic, the occult, or esotericism. These ancient-reaching links are present in today’s progress.
Wolfgang Pauli, considered a founding father of quantum physics, was vocal about the inspiration he gained for his ideas through the study of Gnostic Christianity. Warren Hinesburg, considered the father of quantum mechanics and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for physics, continually asserted that modern science was simply confirming ancient Pythagorean beliefs. George S Lamitrai, Belgian cosmologist and Catholic priest, first publicized the Big Bang theory, was inspired by an ancient spiritual debate as to all things emerging from a single point, the primeval one. Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who with no formal training other than that he claimed to receive from God at night, correctly formulated a way to predict the behavior of black holes - despite black holes being virtually unknown during his lifetime! Even the structure of Einstein’s take on Realism, that is the belief that absolutely everything that exists in our universe is just the result of an operation of certain unknowns on linear partial differential equations over a finite space-time reality, which is a modern interpretation of a thousand year old spiritual Sanskrit text from India, the Upanishads.
(a page from one of Ramanujan's journals)
Expansive thinkers of our history have always understood that science and esotericism are different yet parallel interpretations of the world. They are two sides to the same coin questioning what is taken for granted and refusing to accept anything based on blind faith. Both are methods we devise to understand the natural world and hold conceptual images of the world as working models that are able to change and evolve with new discoveries.
“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God.” - Albert Einstein
Ways in which these two fields share common foundations:
Both assume the existence of invisible agencies that may perhaps be persuaded or coaxed into acting a particular way, trying to bring humans the extra-natural ability to manipulate circumstances
Both emphasize a strong sense of cause-and-effect
Both embody a small collection of general principles which can be adopted to specific situations
Modern scientists, like the ancient esoteric brother and sisterhoods, are internationalists, embracing each other’s discoveries and work regardless of nationality, faith, or political ideology.
While complementary and sharing a mission of understanding the mysteries of existence, the two fields of spiritual mysticism and science do diverge on approaches. Magic places emphasis on abstract principles while science elevates experimental results, to replicate and quantify magic. Science looks to obtain objective knowledge of our universe and is concerned with tangible appearances, replicability, and solving the mysteries of the infinite; spirituality is concerned with subjective self knowledge, the inevitable essence of things, and dissolving into the mysteries of the infinite. Simply put, science tries to understand the impossibly-complex, and spiritual mysticism tries to understand the impossibly simple.
Having co-existed so long throughout history, one may wonder where the idea of their opposing relationship became an ambiguous one - even that of potential enemies. A great deal of the animosity between the two draws from the fact that science has always encouraged the questioning of one’s reality, however, religion has, historically, implied the obligation to lean into a precise ideology, doctrine, or system. It is important, however, to distinguish between religion and spirituality, as they are fundamentally different. Dogmatic religious groups may find science a threat, but it is an ally of gnostic spirituality.
In recent centuries, we have seen science fighting back against the idea of blind faith, but in the process of fighting the oppressive ideas of organized religion, they have mistakenly chucked spirituality and the historical occurrences that demonstrate the differentiation between the two under the category of irrelevant. So much so that science insists on ignoring any form of traditional knowledge unless it fits recent study findings and claims. The issue here is that, while our modern world moves quickly, our ancestors have been sequestering knowledge for tens of thousands of years, and so with each “discovery” scientists claim in the natural world, they tend to only be confirming Indigenous knowledge that has been used for millennia. We can see a trend in history books throughout the ages: the assumption that history has moved in a journey from ignorance to more comprehensive ways of understanding how the world works. When traditional knowledge supports their claims, western scientists value this type of timeless input. If it does not, they dismiss it - even if they are unable to explain or find solid grounding. This operates out of the psychology that those who operate strictly and wholly out of the rational side of their brain reject anything that they do not understand or haven’t experienced themselves.
One of the most vital modern-age topics around science and spirituality is the climate crisis. While the confirmation of climate change is scientific, it does not take much digging to find the mystic causes and symptoms. The climate crisis is actually a beautiful acknowledgment of the interconnectedness of our world and all life that resides on it. To recognize that everything is connected is to see that our actions have ramifications, and therefore, we must hold ourselves accountable. When the natural cycles are disrupted or forced to act counter to their well-being, Earth, like all living things, experiences violent disease - disease in the form of broken weather patterns and extreme temperatures, severe storms, wildfires, drought and famine, extinction, etc.
Despite attempts throughout the 1900s and 2000s to bandage more isolated issues, the collective problem has only grown worse. In order to sculpt new solutions, we must accurately analyze the problem, critically examining the systems we have inherited.
Different Weeds, Same Roots: The Connection Between Climate Crisis and Race War
The particular use of a land’s resources by its native inhabitants has long been used as rationale for colonization. The conquest and regulation of territory and natural resources by non-native factions, as well as the domination, exploitation, and extermination of Indigenous peoples, has been justified using many reasons but principle among them being that Natives live sparsely on the land, and so, their ecological lifestyle does not demonstrate the European-rooted idea of territorial authority that deserves to be recognized by law.
In western society, claiming dominion over land means to demonstrate full exploitation of available profitable resources; we see these ideas trickle into and eventually consume laws, moral codes, and lifestyle patterns. Thus, co-existing with nature and other humans in a light manner is both fundamental to Indigenous culture and a cornerstone of their oppression.
The Colonial Capitalism machine is a vast and complex system in which the exploitation of a resource (i.e. people, water, land, nonhuman animals, etc.) is essential to create profit. To better understand the praxis and historical codification of human ideals throughout our history, we look to French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu.
Bourdieu explains that all forms of power require legitimacy, which is created symbolically, as through laws, and culturally, as through factors like fashion trends. These are consistently re-legitimized via interplay of structure (society) and agency (factors at play within structure such as people, corporations, media outlets, etc.).
Culture is the true battleground on which this struggle takes place, as we often see groups of people, such as politicians, in charge of significant portions of our structures using social cultural ebbs and flows to their advantage. Thus governments have always used media and similarly powerful tools to influence our ebbs and flows throughout the different fields, or any social and institutional arenas in which people express dispositions (i.e. our educational system, music, organized religion, fashion, writing, other forms of art, etc.).
As the push for conformity over individualistic freedom throughout cultural capital disrupts harmony, certain agents become marginalized. Cultural capital refers to the different symbolic elements one earns through the associations of a particular social class (i.e. skills, tastes, posture, clothing, mannerisms, material belongings, credentials, etc.). Having knowledge of a specific movie genre, an appreciation for a specific pastime, or a degree from a prestigious university are all forms of cultural capital; it creates a sense of collective identity and group position - a feeling of “people like us” or “our people.”
Cultural capital can manifest in three forms: embodied (e.g. an accent or dialect), objectified (e.g. a luxury sports car or jewelry), or institutionalized (e.g.credentials and qualifications like degrees or titles that symbolize cultural competence and authority).
Bourdieu continues to explain that we begin to see inequality and the creation of hierarchies when certain forms of cultural capital are valued over others or seen as superior. This can help or hinder one’s social mobility as strongly as income or wealth because it plays a vital role in power relations throughout society, providing a “non-economic form of domination and hierarchy.”
This shift from material to symbolic and cultural capital is what, for the most part, conceals the roots of inequality. This is seen today in our education systems. Education promotes social mobility; however, the school system draws unevenly on social and cultural resources. This is seen when a child who has been home-schooled tries to adjust to a traditional classroom setting as well as the ins and outs of the social mannerisms they’ve missed out on; they are lacking a significant amount of cultural capital for this new structure in which they are now an agent.
Habitus refers to the physical embodiment of cultural capital, the deeply ingrained habits, skills, and dispositions that we possess due to experiences in our structure. As a product of early childhood experience, particularly socialization within the family, habitus is created through social rather than individual processes leading to patterns that are enduring and transferable from one context to the other. It is neither a result of free will nor by the will of structures but rather the unconscious interplay between the two over time; therefore, it is also important to note that this means that it is not fixed nor permanent and can be changed.
Bourdieu often used sport metaphors when discussing habitus, referring to it as a “feel for the game.” A skilled baseball player “just knows” when to swing at a 95 MPH fastball without having to consciously think about it; this is how each of us navigate different social situations - by having a “feel for the game.”
Habitus includes our taste for cultural products such as art, food, and style. Bourdieu used French society to demonstrate how tastes in art are linked to a citizen’s social class position, arguing that aesthetic sensibilities are shaped by culturally ingrained habitus. For example, a taste for fine art is usually shared by individuals of the upper-class, as they have been exposed to and trained to appreciate it from an early age. Working-class individuals, generally, have not had access to forms of fine art, thus they have not had the opportunity to cultivate the habitus appropriate to the fine art “game.”
Bourdieu states that habitus is often so deeply ingrained that people often mistake the feel for the game as natural instead of culturally developed; this often leads to justifying social inequality because it is (mistakenly) believed that some people have a more natural disposition to finer things. This demonstrates how social order is progressively inscribed in people’s minds through cultural systems like education, language, judgements, values, methods of classification, and everyday activities, leading to the unconscious acceptance of social differences and hierarchies and a sense of “one’s place.”
Habitus helps us explain why wealthier countries do not often make concessions via the climate crisis to those in the global south; although it is proven time and again that it is the wealthier countries producing the mass majority of all waste while Indigenous and other non-white or Western communities suffer the brunt of climate change.
At the core of white supremacy lies the ideology of separation. Dividing humans from the land and separating those humans from each other into classes by race. Similarly, capitalism also benefits from separating Indigenous peoples from their cultures. The kidnapping and enslavement of Africans for the Americas served to both break the bond between Africans and their land via literal separation as well as replace the Native American workforce that was being processed onto reservations and/or terminated in the largest genocide in history. This separation of culture is also seen through such decrees as the horrifying Indian Act, which served to support such practices as residential schools, anti-Indigenous laws, etc. Indigenous identities and traditions (i.e. spiritual rituals, fashions, mannerisms, etc.) were deemed illegal. And where there was once abundance throughout the Americas, consumer manipulation tactics such as influencing a scarcity mentality play out as a way to drive capitalistic competition.
Indigenous people’s relationship to ancestral lands are the source of cultural, spiritual, and social identity and form the basis of their traditional knowledge systems.
Racism and Capitalism grow from the same roots, sharing many of the same underpinning values and beliefs:
White supremacy – some people have more value than others
Colonialism – some cultures have more value than others
Meritocracy - some people have more value than others, usually based upon societal definitions of ‘success’
Entitlement/privilege - “We deserve…”
Ownership - right to possess or control
Capitalist economics - focus on profit and competition - not human needs
Racism and capitalism are the dark origins of climate change. And so climate and racial justice are linked. Frames of racism and environmental genocide:
Gender and Sexual Sovereignty
When Native peoples identify themselves with the Earth, they, themselves, are identifying as Mother Nature. Land has always been assigned a gender, primarily female (fertile, beautiful, passive, virgin, spoils of war, a shrew to tame) in order to justify colonial control and abuse. Thus, the taking back of Indigenous land aligns with reclaiming the feminine nature of our existence, while fighting racism and capitalism, we are also fighting the patriarchy.
The bodies of Indigenous women hold a great deal of meaning: signifying the land itself, of loyalties more sacred than that found in political orders of the material world, and of the continuation of Indigenous life. Because of this, manifestations, such as Indian Acts, demonstrate the weaponization of conformity and kinship, as we see a redefining of the social political status of Indigenous women and their offspring through sexual relations with White men, thus pulling away from the concepts of empowerment and tribe.
White heteropatriarchical racism and sexual conquest were key components of the genocide of Native Americans; while religion was used as the primary excuse to force Euro-western sexual norms upon Native American female, male, and alternative genders, sexual colonization is a longstanding aspect of cultural genocide. Teachings of strict binary classifications, damnation, original sin, and other foreign ideas infected the broad, colorful culture of Indigenous sexuality.
“Real men don’t ask; they take!” Ideals within toxic masculinity culture are taken to monstrous extremes as emphasis is placed on the concept of disconnection, apathy, of taking matters into your own hands, and of asserting yourself as having the right to dominate others even unto death.
Taking into account the past 500 years of this precedent being set in the Americas, it should be no surprise that minority women are statistically more likely to find themselves victims of (sexual) assault. Indigenous women face murder rates more than 10 times higher than the national average of any other ethnicity. One-third of all Indigenous women in the United States and Canada go missing or are found murdered. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is their third leading cause of death among 10 - 24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women between 25 - 34 years of age. And unlike traditional criminal behavior in which the ethnicity of the victim matches the ethnicity of the perpetrator, attacks on Indigenous women are usually found to be rallied by White males. Oil and gas industries often create camps near or on Indigenous territory where non-Indigenous men with no connection to the community occupy land that is residentially Indigenous-owned. With few laws or reinforcement of restrictions, this breeds opportunities for invisible bordertown violence, and because of the near absence of cooperation between state, local, and tribal law enforcements, investigation processes are practically non-existent. This cycle perpetuated by corporations, governments, and police encourages the violence through the use of gaslighting on a mass scale, of silencing the voices of concerned friends, family, and allies, of erasing the presence of their misdeeds from history altogether.
Women are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. They make up the majority of the population below the poverty line yet are routinely underrepresented when decisions are made.
Among other trauma, this erasing of presence leads to the invisibilization of women’s labor and suppression of female wages. In addition to giving birth to the entire human population, females also predominate in the workforces of many sectors that are most vulnerable to climate change such as agriculture, livestock and fishing. On a global scale, women produce well over half the world’s food supply, and yet women receive 0.1% of foundation grants for environmental funding and are disproportionately impacted due to the social and economic inequality they face across the world, particularly in the global south. They are also responsible for managing and distributing food within their families and communities. Girls are generally expected to manage household chores, which keeps them inequivalently occupied while males attend school and work.
Women can offer powerful solutions to the climate crisis as those on the front lines of climate change know best which solutions are needed. Being the ones forced to adapt first, climate change isn't a far off idea for women living in vulnerable areas; it is everyday life. Since women act as providers and caretakers, their ability to navigate disaster heavily relies on them. Yet women are massively underrepresented in positions of power, from local government to international politics. They are granted fewer rights and resources and are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence in the aftermath of crisis.
The female presence in the natural world and going into a future focused on climate repair is vital! After all, women began the call for climate reform. Never forget that the first scientist to suggest global warming was a problem - specifically that changing proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere causes a change in temperature - in 1856 was Eunice Newton Foote, an American woman who was never credited.
Poverty and Climate Change
Many industrial cultures do not see classism as a form of violence as many assume poverty to be indicative of character rather than a means of being systematically oppressed. However, in order for the wealthy or even well-off people to thrive, a great deal more must adapt to suffering as a baseline for their existence.
The material privileges bestowed upon capitalist countries to the north and west have created a global class inequality factor that witnesses the consequences of climate change being funneled down to the global south and east, leaving their homes more fragile and vulnerable than their neighbors to the north. This hierarchical system is and shall continue to be a driver of mass conflict. We see time and again how the countries least responsible for the cause of climate change bear the brunt of carbon dioxide emissions. The top ten most food-insecure countries in the world generate less than half a ton of CO2 per person, collectively totalling less than one percent of total global CO2.
Furthermore, individuals from western countries are famous for creating division by traveling to Black and Brown countries in order to “find themselves,” but when individuals from those same countries attempt to find refuge in northern and western countries, they are rejected, mocked, and physically transgressed upon. The same backwards morality is found in the western world’s perverse fetish with African, Asian, and Middle Eastern poverty while doing the utmost to avoid the homeless, starving, and sick in their own backyards. For example, we see the United States loud in their media-driven frenzie as aiding poor developing nations while local disasters such as the Flint, Michigan water crisis and Indigenous resistance against the DAPL are being swept under the rug and kept hidden.
Increases in frequency, intensity, and unpredictability of extreme weather shifts and natural disasters (i.e. hurricanes, wildfires, and droughts) disproportionately threaten these disadvantaged populations, increasing their risk and their dependency on humanitarian aid. Driving people away from their homelands, separating families, ruining livelihoods, and generating severe generational trauma. We see this in the increasing droughts of Africa, in extreme flooding and cyclone activity in Asia. As sea levels rise, the world’s coastal-dwelling population (about 40% of overall global population) will be forced to move inland. Much of this forced migration will occur in developing countries, who already lack the appropriate resources to cope with the sudden disasters or the gradual changes in lifestyle forced upon them.
Poverty increases vulnerability. Lack of access to resources such as food, clean water, health care, and emergency services leads to people left vulnerable not only to the effects of climate change but to all global health crises, like COVID-19. The majority of people living in poverty rely on natural resources and baseline agriculture to survive, but with shifting weather, limited water, and increased competition for food, climate change has turned their lives into a desperate game of chance. As the effects of global warming intensify, so will desperation.
Climate change harms agriculture and threatens food security. Most people in the world’s poorest countries rely on farming, hunting, and gathering to sustain themselves, for both nourishment and financial livelihood; often providing themselves with just enough resources to survive the season with little to no reserves to rely on in the event of poor harvest seasons or emergencies.. Rarely are there sufficient reserves to fall back on in the event of poor harvest seasons or emergencies. Because these communities rely on the land for their lives and livelihoods, climate events like flooding, severe storms, and drought leave millions of the world’s most vulnerable people facing hunger and famine. We also see the increase of food prices and access becoming more and more limited, making malnutrition one of the largest health impacts of climate change this century.
Climate change is a challenge to public health. The warmer atmospheres found in the global south lead to an increased concentration of smog. This not only exacerbates respiratory issues like asthma or heart and lung diseases, but the warmer a climate gets, the warmer its freshwater also becomes - encouraging the growth of bacteria and other disease-causing agents which contaminate drinking water and forcing people to make the choice between risking waterborne diseases or dying of dehydration. By 2025, it is estimated that over 1.8 billion people will be living in water-stressed areas due to global warming.
The climate crisis also leads to major impacts on education via threatening attendance, the destruction of schools and classrooms, and unstable access to proper hygiene facilities, which is especially vital for girls and young women attending school. Unfortunately, many families must look to survive the downturns by pulling their children out of school to cut costs of living and put their children to work in order to make up for the lost food and income. This lack of education does not simply affect the life of individuals but their communities as well. The benefits of literacy alone would result in millions of people breaking the cycle of extreme poverty - much less the results that a secondary education could have for many of these communities.
Rising sea levels, drought, and extreme weather cause millions of people to flee for their lives in search of shelter, resources, or employment, and thus, climate change plays a key role in creating refugees. An estimated 200 million climate refugees have been driven out of cities in the Middle East and South Asia in the past few years, with over 60% of new displacements being the direct result of weather-related disasters. Many end up having to rebuild their lives in foreign lands with no resources, while many do not have access to safe transportation and are killed by the smugglers hired to bring them to safety. Increasing refugee populations cause a ripple effect of concerns, including issues of overcrowding and gender-based violence. These conflicts have and will continue to provoke inter-state violence and war. Conflict, being the primary cause of suffering in the world today, is amplified by the climate crisis via exacerbating existing eco-, social-political, and economic challenges.
Capitalism and the Population
Capitalism must limit the number of proverbial ladders there are to be climbed as it requires artificial scarcity to function properly. It needs the majority of the population dispossessed with unstable resources and low self esteem in order to sell temporary, cyclical solutions.
We look first to the fact that overpopulation is a myth perpetuated to promote scarcity mindset. There are 7.7 billion people on Earth, and 95% occupy only 10% of the land. On average, our current annual global food production is able to feed 10 billion people - and we would be able to double that if we shifted to more sustainable means of growing crops. Likewise, the fashion industry produces and trashes enough garments to clothe the world 3x over. But each year, food and clothing companies bury and / or burn its excess in order to maintain exclusivity and demand while millions go without.
We do not have a population problem; we have a profit and distribution issue, yet poverty and exploitation are accepted as inevitable or natural parts of life because generations of people have been brainwashed into making it so by trading their days for some semblance of comfort and security.
Capitalism wants us to behave like machines, working eight hour days - despite multiple studies showing that an average office worker will only get four hours of actual work completed within that eight hour window. Workdays remain long in order to inhibit individual ambitions, leading us to a “purchase happy” mentality. Keeping an individual’s time scarce leads to that individual being willing to pay much more for convenience, comfort, and entertainment. By inhibiting an individual’s ambitions, you keep them in front of the television absorbing commercial programming, seeking not growth but a moment’s rest before the next cycle of work-survive-rest. This society is programmed to ensure we are exhausted, beat up, and filled with a vague sense of dissatisfaction that will lead to us wanting things we don’t have to fill that void.
But we are not machines. We are divine human life. And this choice of gain for the few versus a habitable planet for all is a choice corporations and our government continue to make, and will continue to make, until stopped.
It has only been since the dawn of imperialism and capitalism that our planet has been threatened by human activity, and yet this author stands behind the idea that humans are not innately the issue. It is the constant exploitation of our Indigenous peoples and Earth’s resources. It is buying into and helping perpetuate the illusion of separation that allows for human supremacy (and the hierarchies within that) to subject our animals, waters, plants, soils, and seeds to horrific conditions in the name of profit for a few at the top of the power structure. It is this illusion of separation that tries to convince us that hunting animals to extinction for their body parts or burning entire forests to force creatures to mate so we can consume their offspring is a natural human thing to do. Everything is commodified under capitalism - regardless of what or who must die.
The truth is that we are one people and quantumly tangled to our Earth and its creatures. Human nature is not to blame. When you identify the problem as human nature, then you are directing blame at the oppressed as well as the oppressors. The people who are impacted most by the environmental crisis have no say in causing it, while the ones responsible for leeching off the planet until we have reached this point of peril continue to roam unchecked. Correct identification is vital to crafting solutions. Place your blame accurately.
Understand that change does begin with our individual choices, which we will discuss in the final section, but the true issue is the structure that fails to hold corporations accountable. In the 1980s, American corporations pursued extraction of fossil fuels despite having scientific evidence that it would create a warming planet. (1988 Shell Confidential Report: http://www.climatefiles.com/shell/1988-shell-report-greenhouse/ )
Below is a 1962 big oil ad which blatantly brags about melting glaciers. Today, this company, Humble Oil, is known under the Exxon Mobil brand.
Modern Environmentalism’s Connection to Capitalism
The issue with much of today’s “environmentalism” is that it has grown and evolved from violent racism and the negative influence of capitalism. The historical road to our modern-day views on what environmentalism looks like is dark, twisted, and wrought with horrific genocidal implications.
In 1916, Madison Grant, a wealthy aristocrat and influential conservationist in his time, wrote The Passing of a Great Race, or the Racial Basis of European History. This pseudoscientific white supremacist work warns of the decline of “Nordic” peoples who were being dominated by “Alpine” and “Mediterranean” populations.
The same year Adolph Hitler reached out to Grant via letter, calling the book “my Bible,” Roosevelt also wrote Grant a letter praising the book, calling it “a capital book; in purpose, in vision, and grasp of the facts people most need to realize.” This outreach of support from the U.S. President is not surprising given that a few years prior, in 1909, during a report to the Roosevelt’s National Conservation Commission on public health, Yale professor Irving Fisher advocated for the prevention of “paupers” and physically unhealthy people from reproducing, warning against the “racial suicide” that would follow if the United States did not “replenish” its Northern European stock. Grant’s work led to the Immigration Act of 1924, restricting immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe and Africa and banning migrants from the Middle East and Asia.
Gifford Pinchot, one of the United States’ foremost theorizers and popularizers of conservation, was a delegate to the first and second International Eugenics Congress in 1912 and 1921 and was a member of the Advisory Council of the American Eugenics Society from 1925 to 1935. (There is currently a National Park named after him in the state of Washington.)
We find further arguments for this pro eco-fascist ideology in the works of William Vogt, prized U.S. ecologist. His piece, Road to Survival, embraced eugenics as a response to overpopulation, urging governments to offer food and cash to the poor for sterilization, which would have a “favorable selective influence” on the species. In Our Plundered Planet, Fairfield Osborn predicted that post-war humanitarianism had allowed inferior-humanity to flourish beyond “its proper limits.” We see this encouragement of fear and repugnance towards impoverished people of color in the ecology and conservation works of the Western world that followed, such as Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, which detailed the poverty seen in a Delhi slum through a taxi window.
This is far from something that conservationist efforts have grown out of. In 1972, the Sierra Club, a prominent U.S. environmental organization, polled its members on whether the club should “concern itself with the conservation problems of such special groups as the urban poor and ethnic minorities.” 40 percent responded “strongly opposed” and only 15 percentwere supportive. White people make up a minority of the global population, yet today, they occupy 89 percent of leadership positions in environmental organizations and make up nearly all of the media and marketing in the outdoor community.
The aged priorities of this environmental movement still limit strategies for activists and affect major environmental statutes today. Climate initiatives such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were written without regard to poor, minority, and other unequally affected groups yet did so under the guise of betterment for all communities of earth.
This and other greenwashing manipulation tactics are rampant throughout today’s politics and media. From politicians twisting answers to basic health and safety questions to social media influencers who rock an eco-friendly façade partnering with big banks and calling it activism because they’re “giving one percent back to the oceans.” (What does that even mean? And who do you think is funding the oil companies?)
This performative allyship will also need to be identified and weeded out in order for realistic and effective solutions and media updates to take their place. Indigenous and shamanic traditions will be what heals the land, and on these paths it is important to specify that this knowledge is not marketable. The secret and the bliss is not for sale nor will those who say it so be exalted as our leaders of the future.
Social Justice is Environmental Justice
Cultural, Racial, Gender, Sexual Justice is Climate Justice.
To craft solutions to these pathologies, we must backtrack the effects these institutions have had on the affected communities. When we discuss solutions to the exploitation of animals and the environment, oppression of the collective feminine and people of color, etc., it is easily done as these interconnected issues stem from a common origin - colonization; therefore, you cannot fully experience the liberation of one without the others as well.
(* Image via @TheMirror)
To hail from colonized people can mean many things for individuals, but it is agreeable to say that each culture experiences an almost paralyzing disconnection and disintegration from one’s identity, ancestry, and the Earth. At some point before the era of colonization, we all came from people so prosaically connected to our Earth, living in such deep harmony with the rhythms of nature, that our current association with our cosmic mother would be unrecognizable to them. It is no coincidence that the colonization of Turtle Island, Africa, Asia, and Australia took place during the waves of “witch” eradication in Europe, burning hundreds of thousands of men and, especially, women who held traditional knowledge of the Indigenous tribes of Europe. The Church has long served as a manipulation tactic and tool for colonization, capitalizing spirituality (i.e. paying for reparations, disconnecting others and monopolizing communication with the Divine, stripping identities via boarding and conversation schools for the Indigenous, etc.).
This spiritual colonization was the means in which capitalism was injected into the land, backed by systematic forms of supremacy and domination, necessary parts for keeping the accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of those colonizing and the people providing the funds and resources to enact it. White supremacy provided the skeleton that legitamized slavery, which created cheap labor, and genocide, which cleared the way for unlimited access to resources (i.e. land, animals, minerals, raw materials, etc.). Both are a means of cultural genocide, a vital tool in colonization as it ensures that there is no viable alternative to the Euro-western patriarchy throughout societal power structures. This is necessary for a functioning capitalist economy as the masses must be easily directed as to how they should look, feel, and act.
The roots of agriculture, law, sports, fashion, medicine, and much more in the United States are drenched in violence, and today’s conditions are little improved. While blatant racism is obvious, with its swastika-embroidered hoods chanting about white supremacy, more subtle structural racism can simply be an abundance of White people in exclusive contexts, where access and power are not readily ceded to others. It can be the modern implication that European-derived styles, methods, aesthetics, and practices are more or the only acceptable means. This identity invalidation and cultural destruction can look like natural hair being outlawed, illegalization of Indigenous religious practices, mocking of culture (i.e. mascots, costumes), biased representation (i.e. literature, movies, cartoons), western focuses throughout the education systems, etc.
When choosing a characterization which defines a community as Indigenous, the singular most important factor would be that group’s connection to a specific environment. When looking at the core features of a Native people, we must consider their history with the land and if that relationship was exclusive or shared.
Western agriculture typically relies on vast acres of land being used to yield the same crop, which strips the soil of its nutrients over time; Indigenous people are known for having as many as 500 different species within the same garden, diversifying and enriching the soil. This is the primary difference between agriculture and permaculture, a self-sustainable alternative to agriculture which integrates human activity with the natural flow of the land. Having an in-depth history with the land allows for the Indigenous to see far more potential uses of a landscape’s functions, the value of thousands of species, and how they are all interconnected, thus knowing how to balance the conflicting factors. When you’re focused on agriculture or ranging, single management issues, you do not recognize or acknowledge this interconnectedness.
Due to the long-term relationship with their particular environment, Indigenous people are vital in monitoring ecosystems. They, especially tribes living in remote regions of Earth, are able to more accurately report on changing climates, population numbers, species interaction, etc. while collecting data through their daily experiences, Having a symbiotic, reciprocal understanding of their native ecosystems inspires more informed choices when managing natural resources and hazards, making them centrally important when discussing ecological restoration of degraded lands, plant, and animal species.
The United Nations reported that although the majority of the Earth has been significantly altered by humans, conditions are less severe or avoided completely throughout land held or managed by Indigenous communities. While comprising only five percent of the world population, they are responsible for protecting over 80 percent of our global biodiversity.
This is why it is important for settlers to understand that Land Back is not an eviction notice. It is a movement that asks for stewardship to be returned to the original occupants of the land. Empowering the voice of Indigenous people throughout the resource decision-making process is necessary for creating alternative solutions to problems regarding the climate crisis, as well as maintaining the relationship between resource industries and host environments. A redistribution of resources and the control of those resources is necessary to our survival as a species.
The key to unlocking the solutions to climate change lies in the intricate, unexpendable tie between an environment and its original people. Ironically, the highest rates of poverty, and therefore higher susceptibility to disasters, is experienced by Indigenous populations. These oppressive conditions also affect Native people’s ability to maintain their traditional lifestyles. The climate crisis disrupts the balance within ecosystems, hindering the hunting and gathering processes (i.e. decreasing fish and land animal populations, poisoning water sources, extreme temperature increases and decreases, etc.).
Each year, hundreds of Indigenous people are murdered for defending their basic rights. Environmental defenders are systematically targeted by the fossil fuel industries who continue to violate Native sovereignty and international law. Standard conservation practices are not a far improvement. Most modern National Parks and other government-declared protected areas were Indigenous territories for which the Native people were forcefully relocated or slaughtered. The continually rising trend in ecotourism and large-scale development projects has displaced hundreds of tribes from their ancestral lands and traditional lifestyles. Denial to fair legal representation and processes, the continual genocide of culture, violation of basic human rights, violence, including the mass rape and murder of Indigenous women during industrial and conservative efforts are all constant threats to Native life - and in turn, our planet.
Relationship and care for ancestral lands are center-points of Indigenous identity and serve as the basis for their cultures. To support Indigenous sovereignty is a win-win for our people and planet! As a global community, we have forgotten our place in nature and what it means to have a relationship with the land. If we are to save the land and ourselves, we must regain this traditional knowledge, and Indigenous people serve as examples that have fine-tuned the process of living in tandem with the earth without causing harm, making their wellbeing and rights to self-determination a vital part of environmental rehabilitation.
Active Solutions for Western Individuals
While climate change can lead to conflict, it can also provide an opportunity for recalibration and collaboration. These challenges present a unique opportunity for collective action and cooperation on a spectacular scale unknown to our ancestors.
Understand that perspective, belief, thought, and opinion are not truth. Most facts we have been indoctrinated with are not close to truth. For example, the famous Food Pyramid created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992 sought not to actually recommend a nutritious balance for one’s diet but rather how calories could be maximized for both cost and density. The grain base and other sections of the pyramid were influenced by recorded lobbying efforts from corporations in the grain, meat, and dairy industries. Yet this was information portrayed to the public as scientific fact for a generation of humans who are now suffering the adverse health effects.
The truth is a solver of all problems simultaneously. Continuing the example above, if governmental scientists were encouraging truly transformational nutritional behavior, they would recommend diets that are primarily plant-based.
Not only does veganism heal our individual bodily systems and save the lives of other innocent creatures, our environment is massively improved by the lifestyle. Going one year without paper saves 8.5 trees; going one year without eating beef alone saves 3,432 trees and cuts back on one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions. This is an all-around solution.
The illusion of knowledge and inexorable immobility are far more dangerous to our growth than ignorance. Our first step to changing the world is educating ourselves and raising out of the concepts we have been programmed with for the last several generations. It is as simple and complicated as that.
The unlearning of false information is not initially a task to be taken lightly. Processing the emotions that come with new information is also a vital step in the process. When we learn anything in life, our brains physically grow and connect new synapses, branch-like nerve cells that fire electricity throughout the brain to engage thoughts and bodily processes. Taking in contradictory information to what we have been initially taught often causes a sort of mental discomfort while our brains try to manage the inconsistency between the two contradicting ideas. “I can’t grow that branch because there’s already a branch here saying that branch is impossible!” The event creates an aversive mental state called cognitive dissonance. This is the discomfort we feel when change occurs in our lives, heartbreak from lost attachments, and what ignites are explosive defensive mechanisms. But, when our brains finally process and accept the new information, our synapses are doubled in numbers and twice as strong and our brains are able to comprehend and empathize in more complex and diverse ways. Simply put: diverging from what we have been conditioned to believe may be uncomfortable, but like all exercise, it seems to get easier over time because our muscles get stronger. It is a necessary part in the process of changing the world.
This will also look like redefining our daily habits and standards, forcing corporations to adjust to the demands for more sustainable production when the law will not hold them accountable. Likewise, we must become okay with surrendering, missing, and realigning traditions associated with the fond memories associated with capitalism.
One grand, yet unnecessary, source of pollution is the senseless waste produced from thoughtless celebrations. Many holidays recognized in Western societies are composed of Pagan spiritual traditions manipulated into useful conversion tools for organized religion and now, consumer marketing. Understanding that many things in the West have only been made “traditional” within the last few generations, it is important to ask ourselves what the traditions we celebrate really boil down to. While nostalgia for certain holiday happenings may serve as a buffer, it is important to our future development that we know their place in history and how we truly identify with the origins and customs we’ve inherited. This can happen gradually but needs to happen all the same.
The future should focus on reacquainting ourselves with the land, its creatures, and our own natural rhythms in appropriate, more intentional ways. Our education should bring us closer with our environment, instilling a deeper, more thorough respect for its rhythms and what is at stake if we fall out of tune.
While tuning into the flow of earth will improve conditions over time, it is vital that we root reorganization into community accountability, beginning with those in the most immediate proximity of climate change affected areas. Disaster response as well as addressing potential risks before they occur, eco-sustainable farming techniques, water and power management, coordinating across justice efforts, and cooperating through community-based economic systems should be primary focuses.
All this being said, there will always be those who seek to threaten our collective equilibrium and peace by hoarding power for their individual selves or an exclusive few.
“Revolution is not violent because of revolutionaries; it is violent because the old ruling classes do not give up their power, property, wealth, and privilege without a fight. Revolutionaries do not choose violence. Violence is thrust upon them, and they have to either fight or lose everything. It is not a question of choosing between violent revolution or peaceful revolution, because the choice is not ours to make. The class enemy will be violent whether our side uses violence or not. Therefore, the revolution that refuses to use violence to defend its gains is a revolution that’s dead before it ever gets off the ground.” - Unknown
Those who seek war strategize; if we wish for peace, we must learn to strategize on its behalf. It takes discomfort and destruction of the old to create new worlds, eruption and casting to form new lands. The path to a new society will not be easy, but it is one we as a species are more than capable of undertaking. Digging the weeds up by the roots, perhaps the climate crisis is providing an opportunity to reconstruct our current social economic system, for the betterment of our fellow man and Earth. Perhaps this is how we, the human species as a collective whole,, take on the opportunity for ultimate collaboration and collective liberation in the name of a more conscious and enlightened world.
“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy… And to deal with those we need spiritual and cultural transformation - and we scientists don’t know how to do that.” - Gus Speth